Yes, being awake at 3 a.m. has its advantages — the house is quiet, and if I really need to get some writing or editing done, there is no quieter time. Everyone else is “a-snooze in their beds,” as Dr. Seuss would say, and meanwhile, my grey matter is churning and firing more thoughts than its daytime counterpart could ever conceive.
However, the price will come in the sunlit hours — my teaching will be less enthusiastic, or too much coffee will make me jittery/cranky/irascible/jumpy. I’ve heard all the remedies, from herbal supplements (melatonin once broke me out in a rash more severe than chicken pox) to yoga relaxation techniques. And there’s nothing more irritating than a hangover induced by over-the-counter sleep aids, by the way. The plain truth is, my mind wants to be up, and so my body follows.
Insomnia is a bit of a blessing curse — some of my best stuff gets written in the wee hours, and I guess there is an established literary tradition to be followed here. Poets across centuries have endured the same nightly conflict: get up and scrawl out what could be great revelation, or stay in bed, tossing and turning in the torture of some undocumented epiphany. Truthfully, it isn’t always some kind of great inspiration that rouses me. Some nights, it’s just “awakeness.” No pressing thoughts about pieces, deadlines or work-related matters; just the old thinker cycling thousands of disconnected, unrelated images through my mental cinema.
If I were to be perfectly forthright with myself, I suppose I allow insomnia to recur because it has its creative payoff. While other writers are snugly tucked in dreamland, here I am, cranking out poetry and prose. Sure, there are studies and advisory epistles that show how lack of sleep affects performance, thought clarity, and other aspects of life, but in the end, when I have a newly completed piece or an expertly edited work of my craft, I’m willing to endure a few yawns throughout the day. Time to go brew up a pot of the good stuff — have a good morning, friends.
2 thoughts on “Insomnia: The writer’s best frenemy”
I agree. I struggle with getting enough sleep so that I can perform well at work, but then my writing somehow suffers. Great perspective.
If I sleep past 3:30 a.m., I feel I’ve overslept. These wee hours are precious to me..everyone is asleep and I can concentrate on my writing. Thank goodness for insomnia!